Researchers in Italy found that mainstream social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook produce less diversity of news, opinion and interaction while platforms often derided as “fringe” and “extreme,” like Gab and Reddit, do not.
Over one billion pieces of content produced (or posted) by one million users across the platforms were analyzed. The content covered topics ranging from vaccines to abortion and the team from universities in Italy analyzed different features such as links shared, pages followed, relationships with followers and posts commented on.
They measured the “echo chamber-ness” of the platforms across two main dimensions: the desire for users to interact with people who already share their beliefs, and bias in the information distribution by the platforms toward people who are likely to agree with the information presented.
Researchers found “peculiar differences” across the platforms. “Indeed, while Facebook and Twitter present clear-cut echo chambers in all the observed dataset, Reddit and Gab do not,” they said.
They also found that platforms like Facebook that use news algorithms (complex pieces of computer code that dictate which stories get shared to users) may cause echo chambers to emerge and that might lead to polarization.
“News feed algorithms might influence the selection process by promoting content similar to the ones already seen, thus reducing content diversity and eventually leading to polarization,” researchers said.
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